The sales management process: strategies for supersized growth
By: Nicholas Mistretta
What do all successful businesses have in common? They understand the functions of sales management, have implemented a solid sales management strategy, and have habituated every step of the sales management process.
What’s involved in the sales management process?
Steps in the sales management process may look different depending on the organizations. Some of the details, or even the steps themselves, can vary depending on many factors. However, in general, the sales management process includes three key areas:
- Sales operations
- Sales strategy
- Sales analysis
This article will explore each of those areas in detail.
1. Sales management operations
This area of the sales management process has to do with assembling and building a sales team. Your sales team is a direct link between your products or services and your customers. And since your organization is only as successful as your sales team, you also won’t find a more direct link to your company’s success or failure.
What does assembling and training a great sales staff look like? There are many steps in this process, but it all begins with hiring the right people for the job.
Beyond the hiring process, great organizations create effective sales teams by:
- Training, coaching, and providing feedback
- Setting high but realistic sales goals and quotas
- Giving the team all the tools and resources it needs
- Getting the entire team aligned and on the same page
- Maximizing every lead using a systematic approach
- Measuring and tracking individual and team success
- Keeping the sales team motivated
2. Sales (management) strategy
It’s important to note that your sales strategy will look much different than your sales management strategy, the latter of which we’ll be digging into later in this article. So, why exactly are we going into detail for both?
There’s a lot of variance on the subject and a simple but frustrating Google search will corroborate that. But the simple answer is: because sales are important!
A sales strategy has to do with how your company defines the sales process, what the steps are in that process, and what sales methods your organization uses.
The details can change, and often will, from one business to the next, but you must be able to adequately define the process of taking a prospect from A to Z – from stranger to loyal customer. This is also known as the customer journey, and probably 10 other terms.
You’ve no doubt heard the phrase sales pipeline or sales funnel. Your prospects go in at the top and by the time they’ve made their way through it all, they pop out the bottom a happy and satisfied customer. And it really can be this simple.
Common steps in your sales strategy are:
- Lead generation – finding your target audience
- Qualifying prospective customers
- Reaching out to those prospects
- The sales presentation
- Closing the deal
- Retainment – repeat business and referrals
Your company may not need all of these steps, or it might require more than these. There is no one-size-fits-all. The important takeaway here isn’t in making sure you complete each step, it’s in perfecting the steps you are required to take to be successful.
In other words, be the best you that you can be.
Let’s look at the reaching out step to emphasize this. It sounds simple enough, but there are numerous variables. Are you cold-calling or cold emailing? Is it set up for prospective customers to reach out to you? How are you handling follow-up conversations? How many follow-up attempts does each prospect get before calling it quits, and what is the frequency of that communication?
Aim to maximize the success of each step and good things will follow, such as an increase in revenue and profit.
3. Sales management analysis
No matter how much success your organization enjoys, there’s always room for improvement. Like other areas we’ve discussed, the metrics you use, and how you apply those metrics may differ from one company to the next.
Common metrics include the number of prospects in your funnel, the average length of time they spend there, closing ratios, average deal size, and so forth. But you can dig much deeper than that.
Let’s look at just one area of the reaching out step – cold emailing. Imagine your cold email outreach is enjoying a great conversion rate (most likely a phone call or email reply), a great click-through-rate (if you’re asking for that), but your open rate is awful. Would you know what contributes to that? Do you know what the average open rate is for your industry, or in general?
Pro Tip: It’s the subject line. And in the hands of a great copywriter, it’s also an easy fix.
What are sales management strategies for consistent growth?
In the second half of this guide, we’re going to look at some common sales management strategies that you can use to create a sales force that will one day rule the world. Or at least provide some job security if you’re the person in charge of managing this force.
No matter what your company sells or the experience level of your sales staff, these seven strategies will help maximize their superpower: selling!
1. Clearly outlining compensation plans and expectations
Your compensation plan and job ad are the bait. But besides going big (as in above average salary and commission), you also must provide clarity. In other words, surprise on the side of caution.
Make sure all new hires understand the commission structure, how the salary works in conjunction with the commission, and what the expectations are. Discovering a month into a new job that there isn’t commission on repeat business is a bad surprise for a salesperson and will likely result in some contagious animosity.
2. Setting goals and quotas that are high but reachable
You’re aiming for the sweet spot here. If you set the bar too low, your salespeople may do just enough to crawl over it. Set it too high, and they may feel dispirited and give up before trying.
Both scenarios can create a lackluster effort. The key? Think Goldilocks. You want to set goals and quotas that are just right.
It also pays to be more creative. Can you set goals for your marketing team? How about your support team? Can you create fun goals that are outside the norm? But above all else, remember to create goals and quotas that are crystal clear.
3. Training your sales staff like your job depends on it
Spoiler alert: If you’re a sales manager, your job does depend on it.
Pardon the analogy, but anyone who has had a dog they didn’t train as a puppy knows the regret that goes along with that. And while salespeople aren’t pets (insert your own joke here), better training means better performance, which has a direct impact on sales.
The entire sales staff should be trained the same way, and this includes:
- Your sales process from beginning to end
- The sales techniques your organization uses
- The sales technology and tools your company uses
- Understanding buyer personas for your target audience
Make sure your sales staff is trained inside and out and give them the knowledge and skills to succeed. Then stand back and watch the sales roll in.
4. Motivating your salespeople
No matter how much money your sales reps make and no matter how much they normally love their jobs, you’re still going to run into the occasional motivation problem. It’s human nature.
Everyone is different and this includes your salespeople. What motivates one may not work for another. So, get to know your sales staff, and if in doubt, ask each of them what motivates them.
The strength and success of the team are also important. Anyone who has played team sports will tell you that not wanting to let your teammates down is a strong motivator. Consider some team building activities. After all, who doesn’t love a weekend of trust falls in the Poconos?
5. Having your sales reps’ backs
If you’re the sales manager, you’re the intermediary between upper management and the sales staff. If you can adopt the philosophy of blame flows uphill, appreciation flows downhill, you’ll have the respect and admiration of your entire sales force.
Besides showing appreciation, what does this look like exactly? If you think someone deserves a promotion or raise, fight for it. Alternatively, protect your salespeople if the situation warrants it. In short, if you want their loyalty and the increase in effort that comes with that, they’ll need to know you care about them and not just the money they bring in.
6. Creating sales and revenue reports
The creation of these reports isn’t important. What you do with them is – analysis and sharing.
Analysis helps us better understand what’s working, what you’re doing well as a sales team, and what needs improvement. This cannot be overstated. If you make one minor adjustment to your sales process, the effect may not be huge (though it could be). But if you make one minor adjustment per week over several years… you get the point.
Share these reports with your sales staff. It will help foster a team mentality and provide transparency. Good salespeople are goal-oriented. Letting them know the score on a weekly or monthly basis could get those competitive juices flowing.
7. Making improvements to your sales process
You’ve analyzed and evaluated and now it’s time to make some adjustments. A strong and improving sales process will help close more sales; it’s that simple.
Companies and sectors change. New technologies come along. A new product can lead to a new market and a new buyer persona. Make evaluation a normal part of your sales management routine, and you’ll easily navigate the speed bumps that slow other companies down.